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Mr Mom

In this century of gender equality, a mother in the office and a father at home is not really such a big deal... Or is it? Michael Karam takes hold of the domestic reigns and discovers the trials and tribulations of parenting - new-age style.

I have recently become self-employed. It was a move that was meant to enhance the quality of my life. Surely if half the modern work force was working from home, who was I to argue? Besides, home offered music, satellite television, a fridge, and, for those extreme occasions when fatigue set in, a bed. But while I was embracing this l'air du temps, my wife, the non-conformist that she is, went and got a job.

Hurrah! I cheered and offered the usual plaudits as well as the standard reasons why it was entirely healthy, positive and not to mention financially rewarding for a person to work. It even occurred to me that that this inversion of roles was, in the Arab world at least, still a novelty, with wife at office and husband at home. Nonetheless we were a team, finely tuned machine working in harmony. The clouds parted, sunrays spilled and cherubs blew their heavenly trumpets.

“So you'll be picking up the kids from school then,” my wife said, already adopting a rather alarming corporate swagger.

“Er well...what do you mean?” I enquired clutching, only to realise there was nothing to clutch. She was at work; I was at home. Game, set and match.

“What I mean habibi, is that you will have to pick up the kids from school. You know school? Where they go in the morning.” And with that she left the room.

“When do you start?” I shouted after her.

“Tomorrow,” she said disappearing down the corridor. The die was cast.

The next morning was not good. As my wife calmly dressed the kids, packed their lunch and applied her lipstick all in one fluid movement, I stood in the doorway, unshaven in Gap's finest, massaging my stubble.

“Remind me exactly what it is I have to do?”

“Well darling (sarcasm at 7am) you get in the car, drive to school, park it, get out, pick up the kids, make sure they are our kids, drive home, tell them to wash their hands, put their stuff away, make them lunch, which is in Tupperware boxes in the fridge, and then when they have had their lunch they can watch the cartoon channel. DON'T TAKE THEM TO BURGER KING”

She was going far too fast for me. I needed a pen. I went off to clean my teeth and mentally steel myself for the task ahead.

Now all you mothers reading this are thinking that surely this guy is exaggerating. How can someone get so worked up over picking up his children from school? It is a task done by billions of parents every day all over the world. This is life buddy!

But the truth is that I don't really like ‘life' at its most mundane. I love my kids but for a long time I had enjoyed the luxury of enjoying them without the chores. In short I was spoilt and selfish. And so it was with a heavy heart that I drove off to school that noon.

As I approached the anxiety began. Where would I park? Where was their classroom? Would they be pleased to see me? Who were their teachers? Yes, it's true. I didn't even know my kids' teachers. Well why should I? I'm a busy guy?

I pulled into the car park. To my acute anger it was full of cars. I spent several minutes in a coronary-inducing mood circulating till a smiling woman with two equally smiling brats gave me her space. Then it was into the school and more smiling people. What was it with these people always smiling? I looked around lost.

“Can I help you sir?”

“Er yes.. I'm the father of Sam and Zein Karam.”

“Oh they are such adorable kids,” she gushed.

I peered into a classroom, the theme of which, for some strange reason, appeared to be fun and happiness. Sam noticed me first, gabbed his bag and ran up to me babbling about painting and a zoo and how Fadi picked his nose and it bled and could he please (pleeeeeze) have a Harry Potter sticker book like Hatem and he could we all go to Burger King. Zein, was equally delirious to see me (and this from a girl who by and large ignores her father). She also demanded an excursion Burger King.

“Ah Mr Karam. So nice to see you again.” I spun around to see a young lady in her mid 20s. She spotted my lack of recognition. “You didn't teach me, but I was at International College when you taught there.”

“Ah!” I spluttered. “How very nice to see you. Your kids are here too?”

“No I'm the head teacher of the primary school,” she smiled.

Suddenly I felt very old at 37. “Er... great. Congratulations I mean how are they doing? My kids that is.”

Even though I know that teachers never reveal the whole truth when they talk to parents, I left the school building in a mood of supreme ecstasy. On my way to the car fellow parents greeted me.

“Ooh you must be Mr Karam. Please say hello to Mrs. Karam. I hope she is not ill?”

“Well no actually she is back at work,” I beamed.

I felt foolish remembering my reservations about doing the school run. This was fun; this was life and this was good. This was better than sitting in front of a screen, churning out pages rubbish. This was not a chore. I was investing in my own little photo album of their childhood memories. When we were all buckled into the car I was overcome with reckless abandon and we went to Burger King.

Courtesy: Arabian Woman

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